Sister in hospital with postpartum psychosis

Hello all

I am new here, and this dreadful illness which took my sister away is new to me too. My sister is in hospital as we speak. She spent 2weeks there now. She has 4 children and doesn't have any mental health history. Her 4. pregnancy was unplanned and she (so we think) concealed it, she didn't have any tummy and when she found out that she is pregnant she was already in 8.month, after she fainted and was taken to an emergency room. This was probably big trauma for her. Anyway baby is healthy and everything went ok. After birth she started to feel down...but her condition wasn't recognized for many months. She had some suicidal thoughts, hopelessness...also she is saying that God told her to do something and she didn't do it so now she thinks she will go to hell (she is religious). She had received 5 ECT "doses" and she is feeling better and doctor even told us, that after 1week she will be able to go home and continue with medications at home. Depression seems to ease off a bit, she doesn't cry all the time, she is happier. The thing is, she doesn't want to admit that she's got a medical problem. She doesn't want to believe that what she actually heard wasn't God but her confused mind. My question is, is this going to go away? And those of you who had ECT...did you realize straight after the treatment that you are actually having a mental problem ?

Thank you for all your help.


13 Replies

  • Hi silvia

    I'm so sorry to hear that your sister is so unwell at the moment. It must have been such a shock for you and your family to see her deteriorate and to have these delusional thoughts.

    To encourage you, it is still very early days. It's good that her depression is lifting. Like your sister, it took me some time to understand that the vivid beliefs I had held were not from God. It's ok to give her some time to 'hold on' to bits of these beliefs for a time. Give her time to talk to you and the doctors and she will begin to understand that she has been very unwell. It's a gradual process of sorting out what was real and what was illness. With time she will get there.

    For religious people it can take a bit more time to sort out what they feel God really was doing at the time of illness and recognising that some of the beliefs they had when ill don't fit with their real faith. Just be really patient with her and talk a lot about what's happening in the everyday with family and her children to help her stay rooted.

    Take very good care of yourself, and hope we can encourage you that youe sister will gain more insight and she wilk recover in time.

    Naomi x

  • Sorry to hear that your sister has been unwell with this illness. I too was in denial for a while. It's quite normal.

    It can take some time to fully process what has gone on as Naomi said.

    It's good that she's on her way to getting better. Hopefully she'll have a quick recovery.

    I think it's great that you've sought out some support. I hope you find this forum a source of hope for your sister as well as gain some advice for how to support her.

    Don't forget to look after yourself. Your sister is going to need you to be well.

    There are some great files on here for both you and your sister about recovery. Hopefully someone who's not on there phone can post links.

    Don't forget we are here if you or your sister need more support and advice.

  • Hello Silvia,

    I would just like to add to the good comments above. I was also very unwell at the time PP struck. Eventually, following ECT treatment and supportive medical and family care I made a full recovery. I'm not sure she would be well enough to go home after another week but everyone's recovery time is different.

    There is a post on this site entitled "Delusions of Grandeur and other religious experiences" which will give you an idea of the delusions some mums had. All very real and frightening at the time.

    As with many mums here, PP hit out of the blue, I had no previous mental health issues when my first son was born many years ago. Your sister may have been 'lost' to you but she is enduring so much to be well again.

    Take good care of yourself.

  • Hi silvia,

    Really sorry to hear that your sister has been unwell. it sounds like she is beginning to recover though and glad to hear that her depression is lifting.

    Like naomi said I think for people who are religious it does take time to work through the illness and work out where 'god' / your faith fits into it all. I can only I guess speak from personal experience. I am religious and a lot of my delusions were to do with heaven / hell / god etc. I was ill in 2011 and I would say I am still working through it all. I agree that trying to help your sister to stay grounded etc is good advice. Also I found it important to get have some spiritual support but for me it's been important to receive the right kind, someone who has helped me see that God is loving, forgiving etc not punitive and who will transform the most difficult of experiences.

    I hope it's ok I've shared just some of my experience as someone who went through it like your sister.

    Perhaps as well you could recommend this site to your sister when you feel the time is right.

  • Wow! Thank you all for your quick responses. Somehow I thought that after ECT she will get back to herself. My mistake. I have to say, it's amazing what you guys are doing here. Sharing experiences like these is never easy. You really did encourage me and my sister's husband. When she will feel better I will definitely introduce her to this site. To know that she isn't alone will be a big help. Thank you again. Will stay in touch.


  • Hello Silvia

    You are very welcome to any help and support here.

    When you sister returns home it may take a while for her to adjust back into the routine of family life. She will just need space as she has left the 'security' of the hospital. However, with support from her very caring family she will be well in time.

    Please reassure your sister that she is not alone. We all understand how difficult this illness is to cope with for everyone and are here to lean on at any time.

    Take good care of yourself.

  • Hi silvia

    Bronsyd mentioned the recovery guide which has been written by mums and families with experience of the first few months after PP.

    Here's the link where you can download it - I hope it's a helpful read for you and your family and you can pass it on to your sister when she is ready.

    All the very best and I'm glad you have found the forum a good source of support

    Naomi x

  • Absolutely Naomi, this forum is so informative but also full of emotions and empathy. It did helped me so so much. I've ordered Jennifer's book today and looking forward to read it. I have three children and I find it frightening that I've never heard of this illness before. We should all be more informed about this. Thank you for link you recommended I am going to see it straight away.

    God bless x


  • Hello all, good news from my sister. She is aloud to go home for 1 day tmrw. This made her a bit happier in her depression, as she has 4children and they miss her so much. It's heartbreaking for me to see them missing her so much, specially because me and my sister grew up without parents. They've divorced when I was 3 and we grew up with my dad's parents. Our dad came to visit time to time, but we have never seen our mum again. Since then we have been through many family related storms. Anyway (with help of God) we have manage to move on with our lives and now have beautiful families and loving husbands. But looking back now I realize that our past took it's toll. Going over and over things in my head I realized there's been a huge pressure on my sister to be a perfect mum, as we didn't have ours around.

    I have one question tho....

    It's been two weeks since the treatment started. And she is insisting on many things we didn't have a clue she was thinking before. It is possible that she was thinking this all this time, but just didn't tell anyone and now with meds she is able to release these thoughts?? I am just worried how to recognize new delusions from old ones. She is insisting that pope is a false prophet. But she never mentioned this before.

    p.s. sorry if my English is not correct as I am not originally British :)

    Thank you


  • Hello Silvia

    I hope all goes well for your sister tomorrow, it's a small step in the right direction and I'm sure it has lifted her mood to know she will be wrapped in the loving comfort of her family, even if only for a day.

    I'm sorry to hear that you grew up without parents. I can't imagine how difficult that must have been for you. Throughout all the family ups and downs you have been there for each other and should be so proud that you had the strength to build loving, stable homes for your families.

    It is very difficult for you to watch you sister in distress and not know how to help her. However, just by being there for her and listening is a blessing. Even though some things she will say don't make sense, just keep talking. For me, it was so important that I was believed. The delusions are very real to your sister at the moment but as her treatment progresses she will fully recover. My delusions didn't centre around religion, although I do find strength in my faith. I'm not sure how to recognise new delusions, unless as you say they haven't been mentioned before. So for now I'll leave it to the other mums here to advise you.

    It is very early days but your sister is trying so hard to be well. She is fighting the thoughts in her head as well as having treatment, so some days will be better than others.

    You have expressed your feelings so well. Don't worry how things are said we all understand what a difficult time it is for everyone.

    Take care of yourself too. It's a big emotional day tomorrow made for memories to keep your sister hopeful until her next home visit.

  • Hi Silvia

    I do hope your sister's day at home today is going well. It must be very hard for you to hear her saying new unusual beliefs but if you can I'd advise you not to worry too much about what is 'new' and what has been there since the start of the illness. For me, my mind was so racing and confused that I was making all sorts of links between things and all my theories felt as though they made so much sense at the time. I wrote a lot down and when I read it back years later after I recovered it really didn't make any sense at all.

    It's hard as family members to know how to talk to someone who is having delusions. It can be helpful to steer the conversation back to things in the 'here and now' so chatting about the children or how she's finding it in hospital can help.

    If she does want to talk about her delusions it's fine just to listen, but it's also ok to gently say things like 'you might not have thought that before you got ill' or if it's scary thoughts she is having you can reassure her 'don't worry you are just thinking/feeling that because of the illness but you will get better and things will be clearer again'

    I found physical things like a hand massage or looking at photos very helpful too when my mind was spinning. At home your sister might enjoy some simple cooking tasks like chopping an onion or peeling vegetables just to quieten her mind and do something 'everyday'

    Hope today goes well and do keep chatting here - we are here to support you as you stand alongside your sister in her recovery.

    Take good care

    Naomi x

  • That's a really good point Naomi, suggesting simple tasks for her as a distraction. Whenever my mind is too 'full' or starting to race I find sitting quietly doing a jigsaw really helps - the simplicity & repetition is really calming & takes your mind off everything.

    Silvia, you're doing such an amazing job helping your sister & finding out about this awfull illness. It's such a difficult time for you all, it takes it's toll on the whole family. It's great that you're there for her. Maybe you can think of some simple things she can focus on, like jigsaws, knitting, puzzle books etc. or whatever she enjoys?

    As the others have said, the confusion about what was real & what wasn't & what happened & what didn't, does take quite some time to work out. For me, there were still a lot of questions even years after. The main thing is that you're there for her, keeping an eye on her & monitoring her moods. If things seem that they're escalating or there's anything that's really worrying, speak to her care team straight away, don't wait to get help.

    Carry on doing what you're doing & being there for her, we're here for you if ever you or your sister need us. x

  • Hi Silvia, I've been wondering how you & your sister are & how her day at home went? I hope things are progressing, we're thinking of you.

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